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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Sunday, Sept. 21, 2014

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The Pabst warms up to Beach House

Beach House returned to Milwaukee on Wednesday and performed its brand of dream pop to a packed Pabst Theater.

Touring in support of its recent Sub Pop Records album "Bloom," the band (consisting of regular members Victoria Legrand and Alex Scally, plus Dan Franz on the drums) primarily played songs from the new album.

In order to enhance the mood of the performance, the band incorporated fog, a variety of lights, fans (the non-human, air-blowing variety) and a set piece of three giant squares that looked like big window blinds behind the performers. This created a hazy look in which the musicians frequently appeared only in silhouettes.

While the live setting showcased Legrand's impressive voice, it also enhanced her greatest flaw, in that it is very difficult to make out what the heck she is saying. The lack of clarity and annunciation is consistent in both their recorded material and live performances, but the latter suffers since liner notes or a lyrics cheat sheet aren't available to decipher what's being said.

Appropriately, the best songs performed Wednesday night were the ones that were already the best tracks on "Bloom." "Myth," "Wild." "Lazuli" and "Other People" also happen to be the first four songs on the new release.

Beach House has a gift for replicating the exact sound of its recorded material in a live setting. For most bands or genres, this would be a great thing. However, since the group's dream pop sound has such a low energy level, it felt kind of repetitive to hear the songs with no elements that differentiated the live versus recorded sound.

Due to its nature, the genre of dream pop doesn't necessarily make for the most enthralling live experience. This type of music is best reserved for headphones or bedrooms. That didn't prevent the full house from getting into the concert as much as one can for this genre. With the concert being general admission, the first floor of The Pabst was full of people standing, while those in the upper levels of the venue remained seated. Those standing nodded their heads to the music, since dancing wasn't really an option.

Beach House was certainly impressed by this reception it received from The Pabst crowd. In one of her few interactions with the audience, Legrand exclaimed "You guys are amazing!" Later in the set, she said that after the touring Beach House has done, The Pabst crowd had set "the new standard of incredible audiences."

Disappointingly, there were a couple of instances where Legrand's microphone had sharp feedback, a rarity for any concert at The Pabst. What made this even more surprising is that the break between the opening act and Beach House seemed to take longer than usual.

The opening act  was Poor Moon, one of Beach House's labelmates from Sub Pop Records. This spin-off project by Fleet Foxes members Christian Wargo and Casey Wescott had a 45-minute set and played almost every track from its self-titled debut album.

Poor Moon made more of an effort to interact with the audience, but was hard to hear due to the band's mumblemouth approach to banter in between songs.The  slow burner "Buck Pony" was the highlight of Poor Moon's set.

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